Rhetorical paradigms

Rhetoric for Innovative Education

Output 2 Online Course in Rhetoric

Learning module

Traditional and modern rhetorical paradigm

  • Traditional and modern rhetorical paradigm

  • Speech structure: techniques and approaches. Practical assignments

  • Presentations. Practical assignments

  • Media rhetoric. Practical assignments

  • Podcast. Practical assignments

  • Business meeting. Practical assignments

  • Sample model for preparation, implementation and evaluation

  • Bibliography

This module describes and introduces contemporary rhetorical practices, e.g. presentations, podcasts, video lectures, etc.

The module is devoted to improving the ways of writing speech texts, preparing their structure, choosing techniques, combining arguments, preparing presentations, preparing for media appearances and business meetings, preparing podcast scripts from a rhetorical and communicative point of view.

The module can also be understood as opening the fan more broadly and presenting manifestations of rhetoric in traditional and contemporary circumstances.

The module does not claim to be exhaustive in terms of rhetorical genres, formats, or techniques.

The module attempts to delineate possible boundaries for the application of traditional and new genres.

The module is oriented towards the application of familiar and relatively new techniques that students and teachers can develop, adapt, modify, discard, and undo.

We (members of the Institute of Rhetoric and Communication) present the experience gained during the training of students in rhetoric, public speaking, presentation and communication skills, business communication and public relations from four faculties at Sofia University “St. Petersburg”. Kliment Ohridski” University (Faculty of Philosophy, Faculty of Journalism and Mass Communication, Faculty of Economics, Faculty of Geology and Geography) and at NATFA “Krastyo Sarafov”.

We offer this model without claiming its uniqueness or versatility. However, it is the result of over 20 years of teaching experience and it is a sharing of good teaching practices. This model is a synthesis of previous publications that combine theoretical and methodological elements. Ivanka Mavrodieva, “Rhetoric and Public Relations” (2013); Ivanka Mavrodieva, “Virtual Rhetoric” (2010); Ivanka Mavrodieva, “How to Present Successfully” (2007); Ivanka Mavrodieva, “Job Interview” (2002). This model is possible to change, adapt, enrich by other teachers and trainers. It can be challenged and changed.

We present examples that can be applied or adapted to teaching depending on university traditions and according to the decisions and programs in the respective universities.

Justification for why we use this model with the rethought paradigm and seemingly “reversed” chronology of the five rhetorical canons.

Igor Zagar’s model starts from the idea that it is more productive for rhetoric learning to occur in a “live” situation or in a game situation.

We take the experience of learning and teaching rhetoric and argumentation to students in schools in Slovenia presented by Igor Zagar as basic, innovative and successful. According to this method, teaching can begin with shareholders, with the latest rhetorical canon, or as it is precisely put:

… here are the main changes we will introduce (albeit in general terms) based on systematic consultations with about 20 rhetoric teachers in primary schools, as well as with various experts from different fields. In teaching the canons of rhetoric, we will not start with inventio but with actio. Why? This is a didactic decision. Rhetoric is taught in grade 9, which is the last year in our elementary schools. Throughout their schooling, in all previous years, students have been systematically introduced to and actively participated in various types of “oral presentation.” We therefore thought it would be a more appropriate, in a sense ‘softer’ start if they were introduced to rhetoric with something they already knew, and to give this knowledge a theoretical and technical basis”.

Besides the amendments I have already mentioned, here are, in rather general terms, the main changes we are going to introduce, based on systematic consultations with some 20 teachers of rhetoric in primary schools, as well as with different experts from different fields.

When teaching the canons of rhetoric, we are not going to start with inventio, but with actio. Why? It is a didactic decision. Rhetoric is being taught in the 9th grade, which is the last year of our primary schools. Through all their schooling, through all those previous years, they were systematically exposed to and actively participated in different kinds of „oral presentation”. Therefore, we thought it would be more appropriate, a „softer” start in a way, if they are introduced to rhetoric with something they already know and give this knowledge a theoretical and
technical foundation.

  • Zagar, I. (2019). Slovenian Experience with Rhetoric in Primary Schools, Педагогическата комуникация: традиционна и дигитална. Втора международна научна конференция. Велико Търново: Фабер, с. 30.

  • Zagar, I. (2019). Slovenian Experience with Rhetoric in Primary Schools, Pedagofocal Communication: traditional and Digital. Veliko Tarnovo, p. 30.

Similar to the concept of theatre (Grotovsky, Gotchev) that theatre emerges in and during rehearsal, here rhetoric emerges in and during a situation in which there is a rehearsal of a speech. The student begins with an introduction to the oratorical heritage in the form of reading. This heritage includes speeches that are exemplars of orators. Gradually, the acquisition of theoretical rhetorical knowledge is added, which builds on the visual material and already provides the methodology that will later lead to the formation of the ability to find evidence and dress it in stylistics and pronounce it effectively. The discovery of evidence and its stylistic arrangement constitutes the second phase, which is the preparation of the speech. The speech rehearsal and test follow. The last part is the actual delivery, in front of an audience, or the performance itself.

Figure 6. (New) or “inverted” paradigm in rhetoric education

Figure 6. (New) or “inverted” paradigm in rhetoric education

The choice to start with reading and pronouncing speech samples is dictated by the following objectives:

One goal is to hear the oratory in another context and to appreciate the qualities of the speech through the text preserved over the years, decades, centuries, millennia.

The second goal is to develop personal, individual oratorical skills through and by imitation. Suitable for this are texts of speeches, subtitles of videos, audio recordings or speeches from films, transcribed TED presentations, etc.

Gradually progress to speech writing by students. This requires a return to the first rhetorical canon or stage – searching, gathering, selecting material.

Gradually move to the second rhetorical canon or stage – creating structure and argument, etc.

The third canon suggests verbal embellishment with rhetorical figures. It is also necessarily present.

We then move on to the fourth rhetorical canon or stage. It involves rehearsal, memorization. It involves refinement and preparation with specialists or possibly self-preparation – audio and video recordings, rehearsals, corrections and preparation for the final delivery of the speech or presentation.

A few important clarifications:

  • In the 21st century, the first three stages involve not only verbal means, but also visual, even multimodal.

  • Finding and selecting information in the very first stage is not only from texts, but also from information presented in tables, diagrams, maps, etc.

  • Making tables, charts, diagrams, infographics in the second stage implies a synergy between verbal and visual elements.

  • Arguments and rhetorical figures also have visual manifestations and are used alone or in combination with verbal ones.

Inventio, dispositio, elocutio, memoria and actio have not been archaised, but they have new content and manifestations.

In the 21st century, inventio, dispositio and elocutio are no longer only associated with personal activity, especially when it concerns leaders and statesmen.

Consultants and experts in rhetoric and media communication, political scientists and sociologists, psychologists and historians are part of the teams involved in the preparation of an important oratorical performance in front of an elite or heterogeneous audience on an important occasion. At the same time, the speaker himself is also involved in the preparation; in some cases, he does not literally read an already prepared text prepared by others, but also reflects his personality and social status.

Memoria, i.e. the memorization of a prepared text and the preparation for its effective presentation, is also valid in the 21st century. Memorization is also about rehearsing, seeking and receiving expert advice and recommendations. When it comes to video recording of a formal speech for broadcast on radio, television, social media, online media, then editing is done.

Here is the classic scheme as stages. We add, however, that there is also a post-communicative stage, when the speech is broadcast, commented, decomposed formally or informally. A possible option is that there is also a livestream broadcast at the utterance, which requires serious preparation.

Figure 7. The five rhetorical canons or stages of speech preparation

Figure 7. The five rhetorical canons or stages of speech preparation

It is planned to start the training with speeches related to occasions of personal life, also called household eloquence.

Then one can move on to preparing speeches by the speaker himself or herself or seek the help of specialists in rhetoric, communications, media to be successful.

It is normal and reasonable to move on to business and public events, media appearances and virtual events at a later stage as experience is gained.

In this way, learning moves from the familiar to the unfamiliar, from the easy to the difficult, and complex skills are formed.

There is a gradual learning progression through writing one’s own speeches to writing speeches for others.

This model is also effective in terms of preparing own videos and channels as well as podcasts, a kind of self-production. That is, it is not only an awareness of the importance of social networks and new genres and formats of virtual rhetoric, and of virtual visual rhetoric, but also a focus on contemporary ways of managing digital content online.

Figure 8. Variant of phased formation of speaking skills

Figure 7. The five rhetorical canons or stages of speech preparation

The model from reading to effective pronunciation

The model from reading to speaking to writing to preparing public appearances in business and society.


Reading speeches – optional or indicated by the instructor. These are found primarily from online resources, but also from handbooks, memoirs, biographies, etc.

The reading may be of speeches translated by professional translators or by students.


Writing speeches – the pedagogical principles from the familiar to the unfamiliar, from the easy to the difficult are followed.

The skills of structuring, reasoning and verbally embellishing speeches are gradually formed.

One of the recommendations is to start from solemn speeches and from everyday eloquence: toasts, speeches and words delivered at anniversaries, family celebrations, weddings, etc. One can then move on to formal occasions and to epideictic, e.g. receiving an Oscar, lifetime achievement awards for writers, poets, artists, musicians, screenwriters, directors, etc.

The next stage is to attempt to write texts of informing, instructing, motivating, criticizing speeches. It is possible to create texts and make speeches on them with different purposes: uplifting, calling, inspiring, guiding or instructing, etc.

Skills for significant public appearances are gradually developed, for example as part of conceptual political rhetoric: official statements and addresses. Political speeches to party members, during election campaigns or speeches at international forums can also be related here. In the cases of official political rhetoric, there is already the involvement of the speechmakers and the team if the speaker is a top manager, president, minister.

Rhetorical canons apply here: searching and selecting material, forming skills in stages.

Figure 9. Finding and selecting information in speech preparation

Selection by criteria important – unimportant; significant – insignificant, priority – secondary

Finding and selecting information in speech preparation

Project RHEFINE – Rhetoric for Innovative Education, Number 2020-1-PL01-KA203-082274, Erasmus+ Programme, Key Action 2, Cooperation for innovation and the exchange of good practices – Strategic Partnerships for Higher Education.


University of Warsaw – Poland – coordinator

Institute of Rhetoric and Communication – Bulgaria

University of Zagreb – Croatia